The 5 Stages of Quarantine Told Through Famous Paintings

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06 May 2020

The 5 Stages of Quarantine as Told Through Famous Paintings

Alberto Lina

It has been 1 month, 3 weeks and 6 days since Italy was placed in lockdown (but who’s counting?), so we’ve come to recognise the 5 stages that make up the authentic quarantine experience. On Monday 4th May, Italians were allowed outside for reasons other than shopping for essentials, and pictures of citizens emerging from their hiding places, like a sleepy bear after hibernation, filled the internet.

We decided, therefore, to convey these 5 stages of quarantine through what we know best: paintings.

Stage 1: Eye-roll

Like Andrea Mantegna’s ‘Bambino, you might have found yourself trapped in a perpetual loop of eye-rolling when Coronavirus first graced our lives. As towns were shut down in northern Italy, other countries such as the UK insisted washing your hands to the flaccid tune of ‘Happy Birthday’ would be enough to prevent a global pandemic. “Lockdown” and “quarantine” began infiltrating our vocabulary, and internet trolls cracked their knuckles as they prepared to spread memes faster than the virus.

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Andrea Mantegna, Madonna col Bambino, AKA your face when someone tells you burning sage prevents coronavirus

Stage 2: Panic

Lombardy gets shut down, global leaders start to recognise this could be an issue, media outlets across the world reach new levels of scaremongering, the WHO insists it’s not a pandemic, conspiracists flee to their aluminium-foil-lined bunkers and Boris Johnson is still singing  Happy Birthday, but who do we believe? As the world watches Italy, China and South Korea crumble under Coronavirus’ ironclad grasp, there is only one worthy response: buy toilet paper.

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Gustave Courbet, Le Désespéré, 1845, AKA your face when you realise the only thing left to watch on Netflix is Girlboss 

Stage 3: Crisps for Breakfast

In your whirlwind of panic you bought 56 tubes of pringles and 87 bags of pasta, which you’ve now used to create a makeshift barricade against the virus on your bed. You’ve finished Netflix, you don’t know what day it is, and you’re wondering if boredom is a symptom of COVID-19. Like Goya’s painting, you’re devouring whatever is in reach from your cesspit of ennui, trying desperately to remember when you last washed your hair. 



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Francisco Goya, Saturn Devouring his Son, AKA your face when you accidentally open your front camera and see the crisp-munching monster you've become

Stage 4: Gloom

Like Fuseli’s painting, you’re immobilised by the demonic incubus of quarantine that sits on your chest. Your thumbs ache from the incessant scrolling through old photos of life before lockdown, and your eyes are left strained from hourly Zoom calls with your distant loved ones. 

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The Nightmare, Henry Fuseli, 1781, AKA you when someone tells you it's 'not that bad'

Stage 5: Acceptance

You’ve washed your hair, you nearly did a sunrise yoga session and you’ve eaten something that didn’t come out of a tin. This is life now, so you decide to own it. Trips to the supermarket mean turning up looking like 18th Century royalty, gliding down the aisles as though it were your coronation and treating yourself to a bottle of wine over €4 because you’re worth it. 



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Portrait of George III, Allan Ramsay, AKA when it's your turn to enter the supermarket

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Coronavirus english Famous Painting Quarantine
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